So, I am taking part in the #diversitydecbingo over on Twitter, so all my blog posts for the month are likely to be reviews of the books I’m reading for the challenge. More than likely knowing my disorganized self and the fact that I am on a book buying hiatus and thus only reading what I already have on the TBR pile, I’m not going to get an actual bingo, but I’m excited to read some of the awesome diverse books I’ve been waiting to tackle!
First up, Paul Krueger’s LAST CALL AT THE NIGHTSHADE LOUNGE for my “Asian Main Character” square. I’ve been super excited to read this book, y’all, if only because the premise is magic mixed drinks. You read that right: Magic. Mixed. Drinks. Screwdrivers that give you super strength, Mai Tais that turn you into a walking talking bonfire, martinis that render the drinker invisible, and more. Oh and don’t forget the mythic Long Island Iced Tea thought to give you ultimate power and immortality (assuming it can be successfully recreated from lost bartending lore.) Seriously, this is one of the cleverest takes on superpowers that I’ve read in a long, long time; plus, the handbook pages explaining the drinks and the history behind each of them totally appealed to my researcher side.
The main character, Bailey Chen, was possibly the most relatable character I’ve read in quite a while: totally driven and great at school all the way through college only to graduate and have to figure out how the hell to make money in the real world. Stuck moving home to her old bedroom and getting a job at a bar thanks to an old high school friend while still trying desperately to get interviews somewhere with a dress code and dental. Replace “bar” with “receptionist” and good lord I LIVED that part of this book. I felt so so much for Bailey throughout all of that, and can I just say that if anyone deserves to stumble onto a secret society of super heroes tied to alcohol, a struggling recent college grad definitely would be it LOL.
As I said before, the magical/superpower system was fantastic here, but my fave part was all the different, delightfully diverse characters from Bailey’s Chinese American heritage, to dark-skinned, dreadlocked Mora, to trans man Bucket, to Vincent, the badass, blind older bartender with a boyfriend not much older than Bailey. It was a rich world of a book without feeling like a diversity checklist and I loved that so much, y’all.
As much as I enjoyed this book, I will say that there were two things that annoyed me a bit. First off, the romance was the only part of the book that felt forced and out of place. Honestly, the love interest was the character I cared about the least in the main group of friends, and I would have loved to see Bailey remain single and badass while she finishes figuring out who she is and settling into her bartending role, or hell, even end up with Bucket instead. I can understand where the author was coming from with the eventual romance, but it just didn’t feel satisfying for me.
The other thing that hit one of my issues pretty hard was the scene with Bailey being legitimately uncomfortable with her high school stalker showing up and her friend basically laughing it off/thinking it wasn’t a big deal. Later they even end up LEAVING HER ALONE AND UNCONSCIOUS WITH HIM. I get that he was supposed to be harmless as a character, but as someone who had a “harmless” stalker for a while, that just wasn’t fun to read. That was the one part of the book where my skin started to crawl and I almost put the book down. I kept reading and it was still a blast of a book, but yeah, not a great thing to be treated as a non-issue.
Overall still a fun read, probably a 4 star for me. I will definitely be on the lookout for Krueger’s next book – I just figured I’d give a little bit of a warning in case someone had some of the same issues I did. Either way, still a great start for the Bingo challenge.
Are any of y’all participating in #diversitydecbingo? What have you read so far? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @C_L_McCollum